Neither of the three of them could remember who first suggested the idea, in fact for a short while they even fought about it, but the point is, after years of discord, their silly feud was finally over, and to commemorate the joyous event they pooled their money and went out for dessert.
Triple-decker layer cake! Mmmmm! Rock got so excited he fell into it, splattering them all with frosting. “Oh, man I am such a dolt!”
“No biggie!” said Scissors, promptly trimming away Rock’s offenses, cutting the remaining cake into three perfectly equal portions.
Paper was the last one holding a fork, so wrapped up the leftover bits in case anyone got hungry later.
Suddenly, out of nowhere they were intruded upon by a newcomer, Pencil, who threaded between them urgently demanding protection from Rock. “Help! There are some who want to break me!”
At Scissors, Pencil screamed, “Keep me shaved. I mustn’t ever be dull!”
And lastly, turning to Paper, who had discreetly crumpled into a ball, and was looking to duck into a corner waste can, “Lay yourself flat and yield me your emptiness!”
Paper obliged, with Rock and Scissors servicing their new friend as directed, and the four of them engaged in this way, creative and uncontested for a full 52 weeks before any of them noticed the inscription running along the length of Pencil’s wood, stopping just short of the eraser. It said, “All the best: ME, JWC & WB!”
Back atya MichelleJohnWalter. Youguysarethebestandmywordprocessingprogramsaysthispieceisexactly250wo
Category Archives: Doug Bond
He was 4. I was 40. The day was bright and we were two gentlemen at
Why I thought we should walk down I don’t know. I felt crawly sitting
The Promenade. A front row seat it turned out. Hard candies in my
We ran, walked, ran, double ran, back. Gina was already there. Furious
We worked with him. He drew us pictures. Black crayons, red arrows,
He is 14. I am 50. He runs in screaming with his mother, hopping up
When they finally dredge the boy up from the bottom of the pond he lifts high on the winch dangling like a forgotten Christmas ornament tucked alone between bare branches. Swinging in a night with no wind, he is lowered in arcs and stutters by a man busy at black knobbed controls towards a father so racked in grief and loosed with bourbon no one stands anywhere near him. Mercifully, the color and catalog of struggle is masked by a sun an hour past setting. Even the search lights turn haltingly away from the sudden clamor of connection for what it was everyone has been trying to find.
I am close enough that pond water waves ripple up close to where I stand apart from the others, watching breathlessly as dank weeds and rivulets of water slip from sloped arms and skewed feet. They are bare, blue tinged and rest limply without the shoes that lie buried as ransom in the muck.
Women hold their children and men hold their dogs and I finally let go my breath into a wailing siren sounding for nothing but for its leaving. And with darkness fully down and the houselights bright across the banks I hop logs and run streaming through low branches thick with webs and wide leaves and pull the heavy air wet into my lungs until bounding up the back steps I go looking for my daughter, but find she is already gone to her mother’s for the night.
When I picked her up Janey couldn’t speak she was shaking so much. Her
“Wonderful?” They must have told her to say that. Just another one of
The terms of the “intervention” stipulated I’d get her for only a few
I’d been on thin ice from day one with these people. First, the
Then they finally put the clamps on.
I’d just pecked her on the cheek, handed her lunch when a phalanx of
They lifted the hair above her nape, and began dictating notes for the
The one in the tight tweed jacket and the frosty white hair winked as
Herb Bernstein was a tool-head, a sparkplug, wiry and overcharged. On
Every now and again his wife Bea, would hear the engine screech, then
Normally she kept the kitchen windows shut, but with the oven on and
The noise was something she’d been learning to get along with, but if
Setting the second tray of biscuits down, Bea strained to lean over
Clanking a menthol cough drop against his molars, Herb looked straight
The smiling parents turn their back, both at the same time, for just a
There’s a soundtrack playing in my head when it happens and it happens
LOOK NOW! HELP! PLEASE! Someone tell them. I can feel my mouth
It could be a canoe, the one they will leave at the edge of their
Train station’s not far, not even a mile, so we leave the cars off the side of Dad’s drive. The four of us holding longnecks rustled up from the basement fridge, Dad says, “Time of your life. Enjoy!”
Gene carries the suitbag with all our stuff for the New Year’s party packed in, and Frank’s got the big duffel. We stash the extra Rolling Rocks into Cresci’s coat pockets. There’s still some light, so I herd them up the short-cut through the cemetery.
I tell them it’ll take us fifteen minutes, tops, and light up the joint, start reciting the names I’d known as a kid: Luciano. Caruso. D’Amico. Arciola. Valiante.
Once we’re among the stones, Cresci gets animated and runs over to the Salvatore Mausoleum. Gene follows and when he tries the door, the latch lifts and he freezes.
“Push up and swing it out,” I say. The door jamb scrapes the footstone in front and stops, but there’s room for us to squeeze through one at a time. Frank’s the last one in and he leaves the joint out on the icy path. It’s been a long time since I’ve been inside.
Cresci starts into some mock Latin, crosses himself. We’re belly-laughing so hard, we’re sweating, and I say, “Shhh!” putting my ear up against the cold hard casket.
For a short while we’re locked, perfectly still, listening, and then all at once we hear it, the resolute signal blast of the inbound train heading for the station.
At the north edge of
A stranger who enthralls
Each unbuckled strap
Knowing loss, my heart
Still, the net of it all
traceless except for
The train slows at the place where the river view opens up and the conductor announces, “Westley Station,” always giving the first syllable all the stress. Crossing the old creaky bowstring truss bridge I can see rippled flakes of black paint shearing from the ironwork.
My kid turns fourteen next week, same age I’d been the summer I “joined” the Bowstring Boys by climbing the scaffolding out under the trestle and letting go just as the train hit this bridge. It was a kick, beating back breathless to the surface, and then telling everyone how easy it was. Piece of cake.
Today the water’s grey-blue and pearly. I push my face up against the window glass to see it cresting up against the abutments. The doors open up all along the platform. It’s 6:32. We’re on time.
Since June, new blood’s been coming aboard at Westley. Recent grads, young and sparkly. I’ve taken notice of a girl, a young woman I should say. She normally sits towards the back having gotten in with some of the old guard.
There’s quite a crowd this morning, jammed, every seat and she comes back down the aisle and sits next to me. She gives me this little crack smile, like she’s trying to keep a secret and says, “Oh, there’s some schmutz on your nose.”
Facing herself forward, she takes out an ad-studded glossy magazine, and starts slowly flipping the pages, every now and then licking her finger to get a good pull.
We hauled everything out, the ice, the twelver of Bradors and got started.
Finished my third and was tying off the fly when Sammy picked up a
“All right man let’s go!” It was at least two, maybe three miles back
The trail cut in and around the pines and then there was no trail at
At the bar the girls looked pretty. He told me not to worry, just to
The shy one was the stronger. She helped me load Sammy into the back
He couldn’t remember when it was exactly, the date she took off the
There was nothing he could do about it this time. Nothing.
The afternoon when it first had been placed in his hands he’d felt a
She had offered it to him a couple weeks after they’d given her the
He’d planned on buying one. That’s what he told her. On credit. He
Imagine that, she said, thirty years in the dark for such a lovely ring.
Mom found the place within a week, so I could start with the rest of
School was a couple blocks away. First time she forgot my lunch I ran
He didn’t wait for an answer, but got into his truck, laughing so loud
Inside, the sound of water was rushing in the walls. On the floor of
The shower stopped and I turned, knocking over the gigantic flower
“Are you still out there Jim Tazza?”
When she stepped naked into the hall I was on my knees filling the
Earlier that night, hungry and tired, the man split his last $50 between a bucket of chicken and the copay for a new mega-tranquilizer. Lying awake, burping, and more anxious than ever, he begins to think he’s been had. When sleep finally comes it is a compromised somnolence marked by bad dreams, swallowing seas and great cracks in the earth opening under his feet.
At first light he feels it immediately, a change in the air, the lifting of a great many pounds. He hurries out the front door. A bustle and buzz attends everything he sees. Stepping up to the landing, a golden haired youth hands him a paper.
“But I don’t subscribe to this paper.”
“Don’t worry, no one does anymore. Not that way. Not the old way.”
The man’s never seen this many people in his neighborhood, all of them, frankly, as jaunty and free floating as quicksilver.
A choir of street barkers and pin-striped bondsmen stroll arm-in-arm down the cobbles singing:
We let go at the very first hint,
Foresake the Dow!
The man calls out to the paper bearer who has yet to turn back into
“The money’s gone, that’s what. We’re free. Free at last. Thank God
Spinning through the ice patch he straightens out, turns left twice, and takes Bessemer northwest three miles to the broad swale where the engineers had cut the state highways’ intersection into four perfect bulbed ellipses.
She knows he’s leaving in the morning, but asks anyway.
“Flight leaves 8 am. If there’s no weather delay I’ll get home before
“That’s a long trip.” She hesitates and then says, “So you didn’t even
“Nope, didn’t know him at all.”
“Your brother’s friend, right?”
“Yeah….Well, I guess they weren’t just friends.”
“Oh.” She tries to sound surprised, “I really didn’t know.”
“Yeah, well neither did my parents. It’s pretty fucked up back there right now!”
Quiet settles in, only the sound of the turn signal and wiper blades, as they weave circles in and around the highway exchange.
“So why’d you come with me anyway you worried I’m all freaked out or something?”
“Didn’t want you to miss a turn.”
The snow starts coming down heavier but it is late and traffic is light. He heads up the northbound ramp yet another time, picks up speed a bit as they loop up again to the highway merge. Everything is banked just right with the entrances and exits sweeping wide and away from where they’ve just been. He’s beginning to feel a little dizzy, almost nervous looking out the window, how in the dark and blowing snow it’s almost impossible to see one side from the other.
On the road it all got bent. First lost to State and Tech was a bitch too. Fuckers were a lot tougher than we knew. Their big-dog enforcer, Trennier, I remember him from the MHSAA semis couple years ago. He was a UPer, one of those back ass old iron towns on the border. He skated dirty back then. Now he was outta control.
Trennier had been doggin’ me all over the ice, every shift. We got a power play late in the third. I saw a chance to nail him on the boards and came flyin’ in hard. There was this sick look on his face, ugly gapped smile opening right before I hit him. I’d no idea that shit, Bjorstrom, was right behind me. Cracked me flat on the glass just as Trennier ducked.
They say I was down, crumpled, almost five minutes. Blade cut on my arm’s throbbing while Bjorstrom’s helping me off, apologizing non-stop. He tells me I can ride back down to Detroit with him and his girl. “We’re seniors. Fuck the bus!” She’s got her daddy’s Cayenne. He points her out, couple rows up.
Back on the bench I can’t stop looking up at her. Ski jacket curves in tight at her waist; big open eyes, drinking schnapps with her friends. She sees me and before I can look away mouths something to me. I don’t figure out what it is until later. Man, that girl sure knew how to straighten a guy out.
It had been this way for me for some time, their following always hooked about the edges of my shadow. It is Jacobs himself who later at the gallows shows me the white tusk of the boar.
In darkness flight was breathless, strong fisted. The moon had lifted high above the canyon, chaparral cloaked and rock strewn. I followed down a switchback and took into a run, coyote yips clipping up from the river bed flats. Four or five or maybe a dozen, impossible to gauge, with the sound of my boot strikes filling the silence between their hungry calls.
The razor branches began to take their toll and in time I joined their chorus tangling and crying like a giddy voiced schoolboy hauled to the floor and striped raw about the shoulders.
My legs wouldn’t stop, my hands reached out as if invisibly tethered to strings dangling from the star pocked sky. The trail ran out into nothing more than a tumble of sage and the foul, brackish silt of a sulphur spring, ruinous to my plans for further travel.
First light before dawn I am waked by the bristling of a low shaggy figure picking among the dead wood of the dry creek. Instinctively, I take to the lobbing of sharp edged rocks but in my present state of lassitude am too slow to recognize their target, and watch in helpless despair as the creature bucks straight in upon me.
The first time I saw the tall buildings of Manhattan I was nine years old riding in a car on the Whitestone Bridge. “Look at that zigzag crown,” my father said, pointing to the one he worked in. He spoke of gargoyles and aluminum trim, stainless steel, and a lobby clad in marble, onyx and amber. I imagined dozens of shiny elevators shooting a thousand feet to the sharp point needle sticking straight up into the sky.
We were in traffic on the way to the airport to pick up a Grandmother arriving for the holidays. An Etch-A-Sketch lay against my lap and I began drawing that jagged skyline, dark lines on the gray screen, a stylus beneath glass scraping through a scrim of aluminum powder.
Up, across, back down. Angular thin boxes, two with tall spires and the flat topped Twin Towers further down. Being further away from us they looked shorter, but weren’t. If you turned it upside down and gave it a shake, you could make it all go away, an easy way to start again.
The day the plotter stopped working, the knobs caught and wouldn’t turn. I bashed on the bright cherry red frame until the glass cracked and tiny silvery balls spilled out along my hands and up onto my arms. I tried to fan it away, but bits still clung to my clothes except for the finest powder which I watched falling through the air in a light gray dust to the floor.
You were a lover of views never one for things not meant to be seen, like the forgotten back lots inside dark city blocks. So I held the pen awhile, with that thought in my head, and marveled at the space around my signature, how light the lease papers looked with only one name holding it all down.
Winter comes in through the window I’ve cracked open. I feel the fire escape iron cold in ways I’m not yet used to, everything here notched towards grey, bare and lightless in December just as you are deepening into green on the hills and water bringing blooms and the air full of wet wood.
Those nights we watched winter rains sweeping through the big trees from behind the cover of tall glass windows the noise of it on the other side was the thing that filled first. Even the finest misty rains had their sounds and the beating of water falling from leaves.
I crook my head out over the black lattice fire escape, long strands of clean mounded white, as the back lot fills with a storybook snow covering the tumbledown fencing, garbage cans and spare parts of dismembered cars.
It is silent as it falls and cold inside the emptiness of the single room at my back where later I will write you yet another letter that won’t get sent and little by little the spaces left bare will fill and cover all that I’d left too long go untended.
Downtown you felt netted like a one-eyed fish, big behind double-paned glass. Soprano sax piped from invisible outdoor speakers, stunted shrubs that weren’t shrubs at all, even though that’s what you called them. Women slender in dark skirts taunted by city wind, wrapping around, patted it all back down, and threshed a weave with closely cropped angular young men who never had hair growing where it shouldn’t.
You felt missing for cool air, crisp air. Sometimes there was no air. It was dirty air, thick air. Stainless steel and glass. The wrong change in your pocket you watched the bus roll away. Your buddy wearing Brooks said to never let them see you ride. You took a walk hopped the turnstile underground.
Peanut brittle crumbled in your pocket as you picked up the paper blue bundle at the narrow storefront uptown, took it up your three flights. The skinny old laundry man fucked it up. Lost one of your best socks. The one in your hand now worthless.
And that’s the word you used when you said it out loud to his face. Scrawny old gray stubble ripping you off for a bundle of laundry and the folds done the wrong way. When he opened up the half door counter in the back where he hid, you snapped in a circle, the reek of vodka, sweat and chlorine. You saw the dark inked letter, dashed with a four digit number embedded in his arm, looked away and never went back.
My grandson reads me his report on the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.
I’m all for this conservation stuff, but find it hard to believe they
“Grandpa, it’s one of the most sensitive marine environments on earth!”
I tell him, “Fine work, boy!” and scootch him into the kitchen to get a cookie.
My nose starts twitching, just thinking again of that freezing pile of
Twenty-six miles of ocean between us and ‘Frisco, foggy most the time,
After Pearl, we were all itchy and red triggered. They started in with
The girl slammed the car door and started down the hill, skittish and
Halfway down the block the girl stopped. She wasn’t half his age, but
She stood and wandered about outside in the cold, and he watched her
Reaching down for the button at the bottom of the seat, he stretched
Can you believe it, that mountain on the front? I’m there! Hitched
Gladschtul’s text woke me at 3am. We’d done it. Only five of the exotic beasts left on the planet, and only one would now remain in private hands. Mine. I poured a celebratory cognac, Delamain’s exquisite Le Voyage, just right for the moment, and toasted to my long awaited union with the splendid Lithuanian Hocker Hound.
Please don’t confuse the Lithuanian with the far more pedestrian Hungarian Hocker, who not only has had Hocking bred clear out of the line, but suffers as well from an insipid bark and a slight tail rise that I find quite unappealing.
The Lithuanian is a true Hocker and mine is by all accounts one of the most facile and gifted in the august history of the breed. Video footage Gladschtul obtained of a non sanctioned hocking display in the thorny scrub outside Sveksna was breathtaking. We counted three, maybe four dozen quail loogied in one twenty minute span alone!
After touching down in Vilnius we were escorted to a private hangar, where a hulking, yet distinguished looking gentleman named Petkevicius approached me and said something in either Lithuanian or Latvian. I turned to Gladschtul, who’s simply crackerjack with Baltic languages. He whispered: Petkevicius says, “You are a very lucky man!”
Suddenly and with great flourish a thick black curtain was whisked away, revealing the majestic hound. He mounted slowly to all fours, raised up his massive snout, and let fly a raw pitched keening howl and spit right in my eye.
Lately, before appointments he’d been asking himself the same questions he’d ask in sessions. “If you were separated, what about your partner would you miss most?” or “What are you feeling inside right now?”
Now? Hungry. Ten minutes until his two o’clock, just enough time for a quick lunch. He checked the calendar; it was a first session, a referral from the cute MFCC he’d been mentoring.
His tuna fish sandwich got stuck in the baggie and then practically exploded in his lap. Why does she always wrap them so tight? Then he thought of the little spot on his wife’s head that for whatever reason, he couldn’t explain, he loved kissing. A cowlick on top where there was just a hint of her white scalp, a small opening in the whorls of her thick black hair. She’d been trying out new hairdressers recently. This last one poofed everything. The spot was all but gone.
He tossed the sandwich remnants into the garbage on his way to the sitting room. A young woman, alone, probably early thirties, bent forward with hands in her lap working the buttons on an iPhone. She was wearing a sheer sports top the kind that wicks moisture away from the skin. A long blond ponytail was pulled straight through the back of a burnt orange cap, with the strands laying smooth down the middle of her neck. He felt himself rolling up onto the tips of his toes as he opened his mouth to speak.
On the way to the Colonoscopy he says,
He has started the counting in earnest:
He could outlive all of it. Or not.
My father was once a state champ swimmer.
I ease his car into empty parking stripes
I’m reminded of the things I’d thought
I can still see the illustration in the school
She’s found a perfect spot this time. I really can’t find her. Not in any of the places she’s been before, none of the usual suspects. I’m impressed.
There’s one spot in the hall where the floorboard is squeaky. It always makes her laugh, so I put my foot on it and lean my weight back and forth. The hee-hawing of the creaky floor is the only sound in our small row house, until finally I hear her laughing.
Front closet, under shelf. She’d covered herself with her mother’s trench coat. I’d forgotten it was still there, the spring weight one, egg shell blue, the one I couldn’t get rid of, so pretty with her eyes.
“So there you are!”
My daughter squeals, “No fair!”
But she’s giggling and I rush to throw my arms around her, pull her out from under. Her foot snags on the coat disrupting the shelf. A small box of books topples to the floor. Paperbacks spread out at our feet.
One catches her eye, the title, Diary of a Young Girl. The therapist has been showing her how to keep one. “Look Daddy, there’s a diary like the one I’m writing for Mommy.”
She mispronounces, says “Anne,” like it rhymes with “Rain.” I don’t correct her. I say it too, the same way, and repack the books back into the small box. Set them up on the shelf. I tell her to go hide again. By the time I’ve closed the door, she’s gone.
Tim leaned hard with one hand on the patio table and poked the index finger of his other into a spreading waste of watermelon juice and vodka. His wife had gone in again for another recon on the stunning details of the remodel.
From where Tim stood he felt he’d already seen plenty. Grand Bay windows, period trim and wainscoting, cobblestone drive, and the peach and coral Italian inlay framing the scallop pool. That Jake Shaver, man, he really has done well for himself.
The kids, twins and just in preschool, along with Jake’s two older boys up for the weekend, were in and out of the pool and playing badminton and soccer on the well cut grass. A ball came hopping towards Tim’s feet prompting the one time high school soccer star into a little stutter step, for a perfect half volley.
The plant foot slipped causing Tim to chop the ball so far off line it toppled not only the Weber and the porterhouse beauties awaiting inside, but then rebounded up onto the deck table into the assorted liquors felling them like a game of childhood dominoes. Tim’s kids screamed and then fell in with Jake’s teens, laughing hysterically. In time, the ruckus rousted pressed faces to the window upstairs.
“Unlucky!” yelled Tim at himself as he folded over in a futile restoration by the grill, his bald head pinking from the sun.
“I think that man deserves a red card,” said Jake, nonchalantly zipping up his fly.
The realtor’s office has turned a minor miracle, a quick sale in difficult times, the lot adjoining the Holy Trinity Cemetery and my estranged father dead a week in the upstairs hall.
There’s still an hour before the limo leaves for the airport, so I head up the short path, a communion of sorts, for a glimpse of a place I venture hasn’t changed much in the 25 years I’ve been gone.
He and my step mother closed escrow on a June day nine Presidents ago. We were moved in by Fourth of July. Little flags of red white and blue filled our eyes the first time we peered through the tree line into the rows of rough edged stones, chiseled names, green grass and flowers.
Later that summer the older neighborhood boys called me out of the woods. Told me I couldn’t jump from the top of Cribari’s Crypt. It was an easy climb built into the side of a hill, but the leap off the front roof ridge was twelve feet straight down to the ground. I hunkered in above their silent stares and finally let go, my knee caps slamming into my chin as I hit ground. A bleeding lip the only cost for joining their club.
I feel a strange elation seeing it’s still there, the green grass climbing its flanks. I take off my suit coat, my tie, my shoes, and bend my knees slowly at the edge of the top of the tomb.
Bob Stuckey’s rosacea was lit up like a Christmas tree. It went in
cycles, these flares. One of the girls poured from the pitcher, slid
the glass to him. Empty packs of Marlboro Red Box lay soaked in small
pools of beer slopped onto the table. It was hour three going on four.
Bob was in the Zone.
Earlier, around a quarter to five, Bob had left Barenhurst Hall, and
as he always did on Fridays, came in the side door. A couple
fraternity kids passed him coming out, said, “Stuckey Chuckey!”
Stage Two of the Zone was the Pose. Glasses pulled down his nose.
Right leg over left. Suit jacked folded behind on his seat, a Pall
Mall filterless wedged between his two outstretched fingers.
Bob offered the girl beside him a light. “Seriously, the applicant
pool is way down this year for Law.”
She was right in his sweet spot, probably from one of the little towns
upstate. He’d asked about her plans, her dreams, pulled the glasses
down when he saw she was one of the ones that takes a breath before
“Oh, Bob, I’ve barely got a 3 point. I was thinking B-School.”
“Dreams, Sweetheart! I’m telling you it’s a numbers game. You never
know, you might get lucky.”
Bob clinked his glass against hers and took a long drink. A bit of
beer foam clung to his chin and dripped onto his lap. A smile broke
across his face watching her eyes light up.
“Although many people think that Albinos change during their life, they actually don’t.” Metzger had been talking to the lady with the pigtailed girls for a long time. After some more back and forth she freaking said yes. Her husband would be in touch to arrange delivery. My stomach was in knots.
She was a beauty. Not the lady. No, she was a snub nosed lizard like her pissy kids. Janine was the beauty. I’d been riding my bike to the shop all summer, since the day she arrived back in June. Metzger noticed me hanging around, said, “Hey kid, I want you to meet Janine.”
She was incredible. Not at all slimy. Smooth. I felt how strong she was. Then she began to move. Metzger pulled me off, not nervous, just moved in. “She wants to wrestle,” he said. Then he laughed “Cant be responsible for losing another kid that way.”
When the snout lady went to the register, her little oinkers stayed by the cage, squealing looking in at Janine.
I walked up and told them, “She uncoils 15-foot, weighs in at over 170 pounds.”
“We know,” they said.
“Oh yeah,” I said. “What else do you know!”
The fatter one said, “Her name’s Janine and she’s a Pure White Albino Anaconda.”
The other said, “My Mom’s buying her.”
I looked into the enormous glass tank. Janine slid down close. I could swear she was looking right at the girls, her eyes darting back and forth between them.
His stomach was making noises loud enough for the woman down the counter to look his way. He was eating cheese bread dipped in oil. It made his skin feel greasy. Coffee smell buzzed through his body. Friday, first light, paycheck in hand he wanted to be gone and free of the interstate ring, heading south. They said they’d mail him the last one. “Wherever,” he told them. “I’ll let you know.”
Looking out the big front window onto the avenue, he found it hard to sit still and his legs banged rhythmically against the seat pole. The sun had been shining in his eyes reflecting off a parked car across the street. Each time someone or something crossed in front it broke up the sun flare into staccato pulses. It was annoying, and distracted him from his thinking, his plans. Then the brightness stopped altogether, and he relaxed finally, but the sudden dark made him realize it was time to be getting back to the office. He refilled his cup, drank it quickly, and fumbled in his pocket until he found the correct change to drop in the cup at the register.
A few steps out the door a cabled bus sped past him trying to make the light. He turned against it and looking back saw his reflection in the window glass. His eyes were relaxed and easy, but his mouth curled slightly, the rush of air like a wind blowing from the north, full of winter.
It is late, again. And I hear
the restless, clopping
footsteps in the apartment
upstairs. Bathroom water
rushing through our
Their life marching
past me in the hall
twelve feet above.
Expecting soon, clearly,
any day now. And they are
older, even than us,
bringing a new life
to light in the narrow
passageways of these
A chair leg skitters.
Or is it a night stand,
perhaps a clock hitting
the floor? Furnishings,
I can only imagine,
I really don’t know them.
the layout of the
things on their floor
with her belly grown
My wife lies
and lightly snoring,
a pillow rolled
for her back.
I hear the shudder
of an idled bus,
the sound of car doors
Waiting and half asleep.
Heaven’s a blast! It’s like a big summer camp in space. Non-stop games, crafts and activities up here around the clock. Amazing too, how everything we do up here flips a switch down there. Kodachrome sunsets? Rainbows? The Northern Lights? We are the weavers of the tie-dyed sky.
It can be stressful though, like over on the archery range, I keep missing my target and the Dow plunges 500 points. I capsize my canoe and the divorce rate spikes. So I’m learning to go with the flow.
Still it’s hard not to rock your earthly world. Thunder, earthquakes, landslides? Just another intense game of volleyball. Politics?…a marathon ping pong tournament. Most of the rest of the bad stuff: war, strife, wanton violence, that’s just us “going voodoo” on a football field.
Now, Baseball? That’s OUR kinda game, a sacred game, a heaven on earth, if you will. So we’re at peace to remain silent spectators, leaving it to The Living alone to…Play Ball! We’re addicted to the unscripted infiniteness of it all, every game a potential eternity (like extra innings at Candlestick!)
And there’s no better view than from up here to take it all in, an epic dance of fallen heroes, improbable saviors, self-determining puppets rotating in a mandala of futility and hope, or as one of our most eloquent scribes, Billy Shakespeare, says: Playing a game full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Yep, you guessed it, the Bard’s a Cubs fan, but then again aren’t we all.
When the buzzer rang I freaked. Ohmygod, he’s really fucking here. It
was so hot you were wearing a tank top and jeans, told me you were in
your moving clothes.
You walked right in and looked at the shit on my walls, said “You’ve
got nice shit on your walls.” And then, “So where’s the carpet?”
I told you I’d go get it, asked you to wait. By the time I’d yanked
the edges out from under the bed, I was a stinking mess, but thought
I’d fling my streaked hair back, tell you, “It’s all yours now.”
Instead I stood there slinking to the side as you practically galloped
past me to grab it. You did check out my tits, I saw you, or maybe it
was a sweat splotch, I’m not sure.
“So how the fuck are you going to get that thing home?”
“Piece of cake! I used to be a mover. Carpets are the easiest. You
just roll ’em and ride ’em up on your shoulder.”
It came loose so you grabbed and rustled it into a tight little
package. I couldn’t help thinking of you doing me the same way.
You said, “Kind of shaggy?” And then began sneezing. I counted eight,
maybe nine big blasts.
By the time you’d gotten through my door your nose was dripping a long
thin string down your tank top. I buzzed the gate. You just rammed the
carpet roll to swing it open. You timed it perfectly.
Eating 1,400 Slim Jims—can kill you. Duh!
(But what a delicious way to die.)
Even so, I made sure to stop at 1,399 and feeling the need for a
little air, hit the sidewalk for some up-tempo hoofing.
Just off Angus Street I got abducted by a cabal of long bearded skinny
guys. They screamed at me, “What’s the sodium count Kenneth?”
I said “Who’s Kenneth?”
One of them said “Oops.”
They drove me around for hours anyway, until one of them called me
“Gurudas” and knocked me out. When I came around I was alone and still
stunned. It was dark and as I groped around I realized I was in a low
cage, surrounded by narrow spaced bars and then my finger struck
something, a crudely fashioned tray. It was filled with little bowls
of salad bar stuff, radical shit: sprouts, sliced roots, some damp
ribbon-like leaves that smelled of the sea and a cup of tepid liquid
with twigs floating around.
I was simultaneously repulsed by and attracted to the strange tactile
sensations which met my groping fingers and then in time curiously, my
tongue. Hunger came over me suddenly, voraciously.
Crouched over on all fours in the dark, I reached out and pawed for
the tray. My mouth overflowing with a tangle of sprouts, I crunched
down, slowly at first and then rhythmically, as if in time to the
beating of my anxious heart until hungry no more, I finally,
painlessly, passed a gas wicked enough to burn away all that enclosed
me and was free again at last.
Tynan never would have seen it, half buried in sand and grey ash but for that exact moment, the moon light pulling out from behind low clouds bringing a sudden glint to the camera’s chrome casing.
There was nothing to identify it. No branding or letters. The setting dials and options were few, nothing fancy. It reminded him of the simple point and shoot he’d gotten from his mom before she left. He raised it to the moon and clicked. Nothing.
Maybe not enough light. He pointed to the bonfire where his new stepbrother, Stu, and his friends were drinking, loosely assembled around the rising flames in the rock ring. Nothing. Shit, piece of junk, he thought. Just about to toss it back into the nearby trash can when Stu came up; he was holding a brown beer bottle. Tynan wheeled and clicked.
Stu yelled, “You little shit!”
“Doesn’t work anyway.” said Tynan quickly, and he thought to show Stu that the LCD was blank, but stopped. He could see that something had popped up on the screen, so he cradled it into his sweatjacket.
Stu tossed the not quite empty beer bottle into the grill pit. The glass shattered and lay jagged in the sand. He slurred “Fucking momma’s boy.”
Tynan pulled out the camera but with the moon shuttered behind clouds he had difficulty making sense of the tiny controls. It mattered little anyway. Whatever he’d thought had been there was gone.
Everyone in town knew about it. They knew my name, said it like they were in church, hushed and quiet. Tommy’s step-brother up in Creelston said he’d help us set it right. Never did like that man. Gave me the shimmy shanks.
Momma just glared and spat and broke different parts of the house. Got so bad I couldn’t eat. Used to be she and I’d spend better part of Saturday morning out on the sand flats digging for stuff. Sifting the tiny shells at the tide line. Them slippery clams we hauled out with the sun still silvery and the gull’s squawking. No way could I hold any of it down anymore.
Well, Tommy, back in the vestry, game and jittery said let’s go do it. Told me Father Hammley kept his best stuff in the little drawer by the place where his robes were hung up. We creeped back through the maze of hallways and found the place, opened the drawer and just stared at it for a while. Then he said, “I’m having a smoke now…You OK with that?”
When he struck the match that’s when the real trouble started.
I’d been counting the time between mile markers when he grabbed it from her. Ma had been folding and refolding the map, trying to answer his question about the Skyway and the Dan Ryan. The car swerved, just a bit, not much, not the way she reacted. I knew he was really a good driver. He’d flown jets in Vietnam, back for good now, just as things getting bigger there too.
Then it got quiet again, the kind of quiet that fills a car even with the radio on and the highway ticking away and the corn flying past regimented and silk tasseled.
I remember Ma telling me they just needed some time to get used to each other again.
News came on the radio. Dad fiddled the dial then turned it up, “Third boxcar midnight train, destination Bangor, Maine.” I relaxed, looked out at the clouds rising in columns way to the south. He caught my eye in the mirror, smiled, “Thunder coming Billy. Big rollers.”
I stretched out sideways and tilted my head back so all I could see was blue sky and clouds, my chin sticking straight up. I tried not to blink. The clouds became mountains and long curvy beards and canoes skiffing through icebergs.
When we stopped for gas somewhere outside Portage, Dad went in to talk to the attendant. Ma handed me the bottle of soap bubbles from the glove compartment. I kept dipping and dipping and waved my arm into the warm air.
Up at my Grandma’s for the holiday break, she asked about my studies, other things, said she wondered what it was I had been busy scrawling away at. “Oh just a letter…to a friend.”
“Is that your girl…you still seeing that girl…the one from high school?”
I was surprised she remembered. I guess it was all pretty transparent.
She got up and told me to go on with what I was doing, she’d be right back. She returned holding a little wood box. She opened the clasp and leafed through some buttons, and things and pulled out an old yellowed letter folded up in a square. It looked like a dried red flower was attached with a clip. Uncreased, she read it out loud:
“Oh sweet Elipha I think of you dear
I yearn for your face in the light
An end to the darkness spreading the land
Your laughter with mirth and delight.”
“I fancy that you might fancy me….”
A catch came into her voice, a tear at the corner of her eye. The silence felt strange, so I said I had no idea Grandpa was such a romantic old fool. “A poet no less!”
“Oh, no, goodness no, this was just a boy that loved me once.” She folded it back into a square and delicately clipped the flower back on top. It was a poppy I found out later, a red one, she had picked years ago in a field when she was young.
The Treasures of ‘Ulu by doug bond
She has promised you medicine, her best silk, and the treasures of
breadfruit, the one she calls ‘Ulu. All types of tricks and sorceries.
It is close, just the other side of your skinny island. Tonight go to
the pool house, you will find her there.
Stare well into your reflection, the small portal window. Light the
rope end, pull shirt loose, cross arms, listen. You have followed her
instructions and picked the ripest globe from the tree, the one she
said with white sap on the skin. The long pole and hook has lifted it
free. Hold the curved blade sharp on your hands. Strike at the bone.
Light cracks the pool house, and you find her there wrapped in an
aquamarine tapestry, her bare legs folded under float lines, waiting
with handfuls of small cut jewels and feathered red scarves. The cone
lights ghosting a blue and green fog split the far wall with candle
The wind tricks the lock shut. The hourglass is turned. Your feet
touch together and you hold them.
Bells on the fishing boats flail in the harbor, and the causeway beams
white from the signal light tower. Feel the distance and opening of
its arc to the sea, beyond the outer bar, where unseen ships slip
further into black.